Arts - Entertainment &It
HEADLINES [click on headline to view story]:

Power, Passion and Presence

“I need a new computer. What should I buy?”


Power, Passion and Presence

By Jai-Pee

The delightful music salon of the Murase home in Hang Dong was once again the setting for a dynamic and thrilling recital, delivered this time by the young and confident Sek Thongsuwan on Friday 30th July. With all the available seats occupied, Sek gave the audience a powerful performance of a wide range of pieces ranging from those of His Majesty the King and traditional northern Thai folk music to Rachmaninoff, Mozart and Debussy. Sek, currently the first Thai to study at the famous St Petersburg Music Conservatoire in Russia, has a wonderful presence at the piano – he plays with great confidence and determination and sprinkles his performance with a deep passion and love for the music in which he both revels and excels. One of his many great achievements and qualities is his ability to play the legato passages as the composers intended – in a gently lilting manner and with perfect phrasing. This was evident in all of the four pieces he played by Rachmaninoff. He managed to capture the beauty of the thematic material and carefully balanced this with the faster more energetic passages which he played with significant power and passion. In another Russian piece, Scriabin’s Etude, Sek successfully combined the very romantic and gently flowing main melody with the more demanding and vibrant central passages – the overall effect being a beautifully rounded and concise interpretation that left the audience wondering where they had heard that tune before. When playing one of Chopin’s Nocturnes, Sek showed that he was equally at home with west European romantic music as he was with Russian music. The Chopin piece was again a beautifully rounded interpretation full of feeling and delicacy. The final work, Debussy’s celebrated Ile Joyeuse, was given a heavily dramatic interpretation with perfect fingering and in a version that captured every nuance of this very challenging and difficult piece.

Quite naturally, the audience demanded more at the end of the recital and were rewarded with a piece of music written by Sek himself and dedicated to his Russian fianc้e Olga who had flown in from St Petersburg the day before and who had joined us for the performance. This delectable little gem of music rounded off a perfect evening of first class classical entertainment with a very enthusiastic capacity audience giving this young player a resounding vote of thanks and much-deserved encouragement.

The following morning, Sek, full of self-confidence, presented a Master Class at the Santi School of Music to a smaller but nevertheless enthusiastic audience. Several young budding pianists from the school were taught many additional and useful skills as each presented their chosen works. Sek helped them relax their arms and wrists so as to mollify and smooth their playing; he helped them adopt a better posture on the piano stool and showed them how to use the pedals correctly for maximum effect. Most importantly he helped them understand each musical phrase and how to play each one without losing the overall flow of the music. This was a marvelous opportunity for some would-be future performers to learn from a slightly older Thai performer already causing something of a sensation here in his native country as well as in Russia. Overall, these were very special events that brought power and passion to the Chiang Mai musical scene with a presence that will not be easily forgotten.


“I need a new computer. What should I buy?”

By The Computer Quack

Last week we discussed Desktop Computers, now Laptops. You want one because you genuinely do want to carry it around. But why? Are you doing presentations to clients? Do you need a 18” screen, and you really don’t mind carrying around 10lbs of extra weight? Or are you looking for a machine that slips in your hand luggage, adds 3-5 pounds, and has a battery life exceeding most long haul flights?

That’s when you start choosing between a Netbook and a Notebook.

Netbooks are typically in the 9”-12” screen size, small form factor and have that battery life you crave. Ideal for watching movies when you’ve seen everything on the in-flight entertainment. They’re good on aircraft when the selfish pig (or sow) in front of you shoves his or her seat back in your face before the seat belt light’s even gone out. They come with decent keyboards that don’t mind your fat fingers (I’m typing this on my netbook). They don’t normally need an extra bag because they’re small. They have wifi, USB ports and in many cases a 16:9 screen, handy for watching movies. OK they don’t have a built-in DVD drive, but you can buy a slim, portable BluRay-do-everything-drive for under $150 nowadays if proper discs are your way to go. (With USB flash drives going up to 64Gb and beyond now, you can still watch BluRay without having to resort to a DVD drive anyway).

They generally have an Atom processor, running at 1.6Ghz, and they’ll run Windows 7 relatively comfortably if you have enough RAM. They’ll start pretty quickly too, if you don’t have 50 programs in your Startup (hint: Take a look at

They come pretty cheap as well, 15,000 baht buying you an adequate travelling machine with Internet and Office application capability (I run Office 2010 on mine and it doesn’t hurt a bit).

Then again, you might want to run a monster Windows game, so now it’s time to start looking at Notebooks, which pretty well seems to be a euphemism for laptop these days.

You’re going to pay more, but you should get a decent n-Vidia or ATI graphics card, a decent sized screen, a multifunction (DVD and CD read/write) optical drive, card reader, inbuilt Wifi to name the basics.

They’re going to weigh twice as much, but they’ll do many a job that the Netbook doesn’t. And they’ll be going on for twice the price. Maybe not good for aircraft, put OK to pop in your car and drive from office to office, or house to coffee shop. Battery life may be lower, but nowadays 4+ hours is not hard to find, which should be enough to last you away from a power source.

Are there other options? Not quite right now, but this year could well be the year of the tablet PC. The success of the iPad (admittedly mainly down to Apple’s insatiable and easily-pleased customer base) has woken up the industry, and all of the big manufacturers are looking at tablet form PCs. Many of them will run Windows 7, so they will have proper support for USB devices and so on. Other vendors are looking at Android versions (if you remember, I mentioned Android in an earlier column, as a decent alternative to the over-priced iPhone’s iOS).

Many of these tablets will run nVidia’s “Tegra” technology, which brings a whole new platform of low-power but powerful processing and graphics performance to the market. Others will run new Intel 1.8Ghz Dual core Atom processors and new nVidia Optimus graphics technology which will optimize the use of power depending on what you’re doing. This technology is already in manufacture, and the first to harness it, the ASUS 1215N, is a 12” Netbook that comes in at a remarkable price of around under 17,000 baht if blog reports are accurate. Funnily enough, ASUS are also the first to look at a “convertible” Netbook – the eee Pad EP121 - with a detachable screen, which then becomes a Touchscreen tablet; this will probably run Windows 7, and it’s expected to hit the market later this year if all goes well.

So there you are. First pick your budget. Then decide if you want to move your computer regularly. Then decide how much you want to move it, and what you really want it for. Then wait until the first quarter of 2010 when all the new toys that hit the market in time for the holiday season suddenly become the golden nuggets in the January sales.

One last thing to consider, a subject which was discussed in depth last week, is the issue of refurbished computers. If you can trust them, they are a great opportunity to buy a new machine at a discounted price.

What I learned this week is that “refurbished” doesn’t just mean second hand. Yes, in some cases a defective part has led to a machine being returned. But it’s replaced, and the machine added to the refurbished PC market. In other cases, they’ve simply been returned because the buyer doesn’t like them and is exercising his rights under his purchase agreement. The manufacturers can’t sell these machines as new, so they offer them to the refurbished market, but they generally work just fine and still have the warranty, and can be a great way of purchasing a new computer at a much reduced price.

Certainly something to consider if you need to buy now, want a higher specification machine (Desktop or portable) but can’t afford to buy it new. There are many manufacturers that do refurbished machines, so it’s certainly worth investigating.

Does that clarify things? Good, because this is point where I finish my drink, bid you adios, and send you on your way to ponder your budget, your needs and your personal preferences, because I’m not going to decide for you. You are. That way you can’t come back and moan at me for pointing you in the wrong direction.

Oh, and you may wonder why I haven’t mentioned Apple. I consider them to be very pretty, but overpriced, and I don’t like being force fed what Steve Jobs decides to give me. If you really are uncomfortable around computers, the simple to use and almost unbreakable Mac may be a good choice. You can go and research that one yourself.

As usual, your questions and comments can be addressed to [email protected]